I had no idea very simple medical treatment is so expensive in India! We rarely have to visit a doctor and as such I have no idea how much it costs to consult a doctor these days. I know medicines are becoming expensive but this was the first time I experienced unexpected medical charges. It all started when our daughter had a minor fracture in her elbow when she fell down while skating on the road. We did not see the accident, but apparently she was skating over some humps and perhaps due to over speeding lost her balance and landed on her left elbow. Her friends accompanied her home and we were facing a rather sad elbow condition. She was in noticeable pain but was not crying, so we did not initially think it was a fracture.

The next day we woke up to a rather swollen arm but still did not consider broken bone. Eventually after 10 days, since the swelling was taking it’s sweet time to recover we had to visit the doctor. Normally we prefer the body to recover naturally but in this situation we had to go. That is when we understood how much it costs to just repair a minor part of the body :). We visited a hospital which is walking distance from our house. It is not a fancy one at all, but has emergency facilities, in patient care, X ray facilities etc all within the premises.

Anyway, after consulting with an Orthopedician he suggested an X-ray. After looking at the X-ray he said that there is a minor fracture but the bone is not misaligned. He said we should go for a plaster of paris bandage and a sling to immobilize the hand. We purchased the bandage and other material he prescribed from the pharmacy attached to the hospital. The doctor directed us to proceed to minor OT (operation theater) and completed the ceremonious bandaging. All along the hospital was slapping us bills, but we did not know what it was amounting to. The doctor advised us to come back in two weeks to open the plaster. Apparently it takes 3 weeks to heal but since we waited for 10 days already, we got the shorter timeline.

Two weeks later we went to have the plaster removed and more bills later, our daughter was finally free of the plaster. She is still recovering and the doctor suggested another 10 days for recovery. So she still cannot play with her broken (but now partially repaired) hand yet. And he suggested some stretches. All in all it was a quick process. We were in and out of the hospital in about 30 mins in our first consultancy and about 15 mins in the next one. The cost of such efficiency are the following bills.

Description Cost
Dr. Consultation 550
X-ray 500
Plaster material 1176
Dr. fees for casting 2500
Dr. consultation 550
Cast removal 600
Medicine 90

That totals to Rs. 6,000. I did not expect a simple fracture bill would be that much. I am not complaining. After all you cannot put a price on health but I did not know this was the case. Just imagine, a doctor spending 10 minutes to plaster the hand can charge Rs. 2,500! That’s a good Rs. 15,000 per hour wage. Cutting the cast was done by an intern doctor in 2 minutes and charged Rs. 600. These are hefty prices indeed. Compared to the consultancy fees paid when I was a kid it is quite expensive now. Well, to be fair I went to a small clinic when I was kid instead of a well equipped hospital like we visited now.

That is the inflation in medicine for simple issues. I can imagine how expensive it can turn out to be if there is a major problem. How must the poor be suffering if they ever have to visit a private hospital. Meanwhile the government hospitals may not be as well equipped and most certainly not have enough doctors. So long lines and slow process over there. Health care should not be a privilege to be enjoyed only by the rich, but it seems to be turning into that.